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Short forms of praise and prayer to the gods 9 are continually used, and are supposed to promote very highly a person's spiritual interests. The following is an example of praise addressed to Gũnga :- O goddess, the owl that lodges in the hollow of a tree on thy banks, is exalted beyond measure;
while the emperor, whose palace is far from thee, though he may possess a' million of stately elephants, and may have the wives of a million of conquered enemies to serve him, is nothing. Example of prayer:
O god! I am the greatest sinner in the world; but thou, among the gods, art the greatest saviour: I leave my cause in thy hands. Praise is considered as more prevalent with the gods than prayer, as the gods are mightily pleased with flattery. Some unite vows to their supplications, and promise to present to the god a handsome offering if he be propitious.
Another act of Hindoo devotion is meditation on the form of an idol. Mr. Hastings, in his prefatory letter to the Gēēta, says, the Rev. Mr. Maurice describes the bramhŭns as devoting a certain period of time to the contemplation of the deity, his attributes, and the moral duties of life. The truth is, that in this Hindoo act of devotion there is not a vestige of reference to the divine attributes, nor to moral duty. The Hindoo rehearses in his mind the form of the god, his colour, the number of his heads, eyes, hands, &c. and nothing more.
9 Instead of hymus in honour of the gods, the Hindoos, at present, as has been already noticed, introduce before the idol little beside filthy songs. Some bramhŭns acknowledge, that not a single Hindoo seeks in his religion any thing of a moral nature. A real Christian, when he approaches God, prays, ' Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.' • Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil.' 'Give me neither poverty nor riches.' Guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.' A Hindoo, when he supplicates his god, prays for riches, or for recovery from sickness, or for a son, or for revenge upon his enemy. Sometimes the worshipper places himself before the image in a sitting posture, and, closing his eyes, prays, "Oh, god! give me beauty, let me be praised, give me prosperity, give me a son, give me riches, give me long life, or, give me health, &c.' The eldest female of the house, throwing her garment over her shoulder, and sitting on her hams, joining her hands, in the same manner, prays, ' 0 god! preserve these my children, and my son's wife; do not suffer us to have sorrow again in our family, (referring to some death in the preceding year,) and then I will present offerings to thee every year:' saying this, she prostrates herself before the image. Sometimes a woman, after bathing, stretches her arms towards the sun, and says, ' O god of day! such a one has ill-treated me; do thou afflict her. See! I supplicate theç without having touched or tasted food.' A poor man, in the presence of an image, sometimes prays, ' O god! fill me every day with food. I ask no more.'
Repeating the names of the gods, particularly of a person's guardian deity, is one of the most common, and is considered as one of the most efficacious acts of devotion prescribed in the shastrŭs. The oftener the name is repeated, the greater the meri Persons may be seen in the streets repeating these names either alone, or at work, or to a parrot; others, as they walk along, count the repetitions by the beads of their necklace, which they then hold in the hand.
A great number of prescribed ceremonies, called vrůtůs, exist among the Hindoos, which are practised with the hope of obtaining some blessing : females chiefly attend to these ceremonies.
Fasting is another act of religious merit among the Hindoos. Some fasts are extremely severe, and a Hindoo who is very religious must often abstain from food. It is commended, not as an act of preparation for some duty, calling for great attention of mind, but as an instance of self-denial in honour of the gods, which is very pleasing to them. One man may fast for another, and the merit of the action is then transferred to the person paying and employing another in this work.
Gifts to bramhŭns are highly meritorious, as might be expected in a system exclusively formed for their exaltation : the more costly the gift, the more valuable the promissory note, drawn on heaven, and presented to the giver. Giving entertainments to bramhŭns is also another action which procures heaven.
Hospitality to travellers is placed among the duties of the Hindoos, and is practised to a considerable extent, though the distinctions of cast destroy the feelings which should give efficacy to this excellent law. So completely do these distinctions destroy every generous and benevolent feeling, that many unfortunate creatures perish in the sight of those who are well able to relieve them, but who exonerate themselves from this duty, by urging, that they are of another cast: a bramhŭn finds friends every where, but the cast has sunk the afflicted shõõdrŭ to the level of the beasts : when a bramhŭn is relieved, however, he is not indebted to the benevolence of his countrymen, so much as to the dread which they feel lest neglect of a bramhŭn should bring upon them the wrath of the gods.
Digging pools, planting trees for fruit or shade, making roads for pilgrims, &c. are other duties commanded by the shastrů, and practised by the modern Hindoos.
Reading and rehearsing the pooranŭs are prescribed to the Hindoos as religious duties, and many attend to them at times in a very expensive manner.
Other eeremonies contrary to every principle of benevolence exist among this people, one of which is to repeat certain formulas, for the sake of injuring, removing, or destroying enemies. Here superstition is made an auxiliary to the most diabolical passions.
But what shall we say of the murder of widows on the funeral pile ?--this too is an act of great piety. The priest assists the poor wretch, in her last moments, before she falls on the pile, with the formulas given by the Hindoo legislators; and, to complete this most, horrible of all religious customs, the son of this wretched victim kindles the fire in the very face of the mother who gave him birth. Can there possibly be a greater outrage on human nature ? Is there any thing like it in all the records of the most wild and savage nations ? The North American Indian proceeds with the utmost coolness, it is true, in the work of scalping and murder, but the victim is his enemy, taken in battle ; here the victim is an innocent woman-a niother-a widow, her heart fresh bleeding under the loss of the companion of her youth-the murderer, her own child—dragged to the work by the mild bramhủn, who dances, and shouts, and drowns the cries of the family and the victim in the horrid sounds of the drum. Such is the balm which is here poured into the broken heart of the widow. Nor are these unheard of, unparalleled murders, perpetrated in the night, in some impenetrable forest; but in the presence of the whole population of India, in open day:_and oh! horrible, most horrible! not less than five thousand of these unfortunate women, it is supposed, are immolated every twelve months. I have heard that the son sometimes manifests a great reluctance to the deed", and that some of these human sacrifices are almost dead before they are touched by the flamess. It is certain, that in many cases the family do much to prevent the female from being thus drawn into the flaming gulph; but such are the effects of superstition, and the influence of longestablished customs, joined to the disgrace and terrors of a state of widowhood, that, in the first moments of grief and distraction for the loss of her husband, reason is overpowered, and the widow perishes on the funeral pile, the victim of grief, superstition, and dread. Many widows are buried alive with the corpses of their husbands t.
* The shastrů prescribes, that he should do it with his head turned from the pile. Kennett, describing the Roman funeral, says, “ The next of blood performed the ceremony of lighting the pile, which they did with a torch, turning their face all the while the other way, as if it was done out of necessity and not willingly.'
• These barbarous murderers say, that when a woman is thus frightened to death, the gods, charmed with her devotion, have taken her before she entered upon this holy act.
· The following circumstance took place at Gondůl-para, about 20
Voluntary suicide is not only practised to a dreadful extent among the Hindoos, but the shastrŭs positively recommend the
miles N. of Calcutta, on the 18th of March, 1813, and was communicated to the author by Capt. Kemp, an eye-witness. The description is nearly in his own words :- On Thursday last, at nine in the morning, Vishwůnat'hů, one of our best workmen, who had been sick but a short time, was brought down to the river side to expire: he was placed, as is çustomary, on the bank, and a consultation held respecting the time he would die; the astrologer predicted, that his dissolution was near at hand. The sick man was then immersed up to the middle in the river, and there kept for some time; but death not being so near as was predicted, he was again placed on the beach, extended at full length, and exposed to a hot sun, where he continued the whole of the day, excepting at those intervals when it was supposed he was dying, when he was again immersed in the sacred stream. I visited him in the evening; he was sensible, but had not the power of utterance; he however was able to make signs with his hand, that he did not wish to drink the river water, which they kept almost continually pouring into his mouth by means of a small shell. He remained in this situation during the night: in the morning the immersions commenced, and were continued at intervals till about five in the evening, when he expired, or was literally murdered. His wife, a young woman about sixteen years of age, hearing of his death, came to the desperate resolution of being buried alive with the corpse. She was accompanied by her friends down to the beach where the body lay, where a small branch of the Mango tree was presented to her, which (as I understood) was setting a seal to her determination; froin which, after having accepted the branch, she could not retreat. I went to her, and questioned her with respect to the horrid act she was about to perform, whether it was voluntary or from persuasion : nothing of the latter appeared; it was entirely her own desire. I spoke to her relations on the heinousness of the crime they were guilty of, in allowing the young creature thus to precipitate herself into the presence of her Creator uncalled for. Mrs. K. spoke both to the mother and the daughter a good deal, but all to no purpose. The mother declared, that it was her daughter's choice, who added, that she was determined to “go the road her husband had gone." There was not the least appearance of regret observable in the mother's countenance, or conduct. A woman, then, can forget her sucking child, and forsake the child of her womb :" the prophet seemed to think it only possible that there might exist such a monster, but here it was realized ; here was a monster of a mother, that could resign her child, the gift of a gracious Providence, and designed to be the comfort